27 November 2014

Pizza Express - Christmas Menu

Mmmm Pizza  -I love pizza! Sadly, the other half won't touch it so my opportunities to go out somewhere to get the good stuff are few and far between! Thankfully, I was recently invited along to Pizza Express to try out their new Christmas Menu - the perfect excuse!

No, I didn't drag the Mr out - he wasn't up for it even with the promise of a festive theme (usually right up his street!) but it didn't take much convincing to get my little brother to accompany me! We headed over to our nearest branch - the one at Birstall Retail Park - as it's not only closer but so much easier for parking than any of the city centre branches! It was my first time at this particular Pizza Express but it was a very handsome restaurant, crisp and modern with a cool central open kitchen and some very funky decoration.

I'd usually take advantage of ability and willingness to drive us and have myself an alcoholic beverage or two, but it was the Sicilian Still Lemonade that most jumped out at me on the menu - despite not being particularly festive - and I wasn't disappointed. It was sharp, sweet and zesty. My brother ordered the Belvoir Raspberry Lemonade and was a big fan of that too!

pizza express drinks

In terms of food, the limited edition Christmas menu featured a very convenient two new starters and two new pizzas for the season so we figured the fairest thing to do was to order one of each and split them! The festive starters are Arancini Provola - baked risotto balls with spinach and provola cheese...

...and Pork and Pancetta Croquettes - pulled pork, pancetta, cheddar and basil croquettes breaded and baked. I'd expected to prefer the arancini out of the two of them but to my surprise it was the pork croquettes really offered something special - their more rustic appearance complimented a fresh and flavoursome taste and you could definitely believe these to be hand made.
pizza express christmas menu starters

We aimed for the same approach with the pizzas - ordering both and splitting them between us - and once again I was surprised as to which one I enjoyed most! My expectations were high for the Anatra Romana - pulled duck, shredded courgette, red onion and mozzarella on a light plum hoisin sauce finished with rocket and spring onion. It was very tasty but I don't think I'd have managed one of these on my own! I found the sweetness from that sauce a little overpowering, though that didn't disturb little bro who chowed his way through three quarters of this one while I struggled to finish two slices!

christmas menu pizza duck plum hoisin sauce

The Festiva Romana - brie, leek, pine kernels and mozzarella with garlic oil, rosemary and sage on a bechamel base served with rocket and gran moravia - was the one I was less sure about. It seemed strange to not have a tomato sauce base (I know the duck one didn't either but the hoisin sauce seemed a closer alternative than the bechamel base of this one) and wasn't sure if it would feel like it was missing something because of this omission. I need not have worried though, the overall effect was a deliciously creamy and indulgent pizza. This was served with a cranberry dipping sauce - a nice festive touch!

cream christmas pizza

Desserts left us with a bit of a pickle - while there were two starters and two mains to choose from there were three desserts meaning we sadly had to neglect one of them! In the end we decided to ditch the Chocolate Tortufo - rich dark chocolate with a praline mousse centre - which sounded delicious but perhaps the most 'standard' dessert option, the one out of the three it seemed easiest to find or replicate elsewhere. Instead we opted for the Mince Pie Cheesecake - rum soaked fruit in a clotted cream cheesecake on a crumbly shortbread base - that really did capture the essence of a mince pie but with all that extra creaminess from the cheesecake, yum!

pizza express christmas desserts

The other dessert we had between us was a portion of the Snowball Dough Balls. I love the Pizza Express dough balls, they're one of the main things I associate with the chain and could eat them all day long but I'd never considered them a dessert food before. However, as served here sprinkled with cinnamon and icing sugar and with a pot of a gorgeous vanilla cream dip, they're not likely to be confused with the more traditional starter dish! The dough balls were light and melt-in-your-mouth, and the cinnamon and icing sugar dusting gives just the right amount of sweet-and-spice for a perfect way to end a Christmassy meal.

festive desserts pizza

Pizza Express might not be your first thought for a Christmas meal - and obviously the offerings are far from traditional seasonal fare - but I'm really impressed by the Christmas menu they've put together and would definitely recommend it for a casual festive feast! There's a two course lunch option at £14.95 but my recommendation would be to go all in at £19.95 for three courses and a glass of prosecco - it is Christmas, after all!
* Meal provided free of charge in return for review

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